Thursday, November 30, 2006

A step back in time

Every now and then I stumble across a gem of a website. Today I came across Stuart King's website, and in particular the articles he has written, many of which are about woodturning as it was practiced in days gone by.

Do take a look. There are stories from England of bodgers, bowl turners and twist cleaners. There are tales from eastern Europe of bow lathe turners, drop spindle makers and drinking flask makers.

One point I found particularly interesting was about elm logs:
They stood in a pile for at least two years before being converted into bowl blanks. By this time most of the bark had fallen off and the timber became ‘kind’.
I don't know exactly what they mean by 'kind', but I suspect that it is the point at which the wood has lost its free moisture between the cells, but the bound water is still trapped inside them. This is the point at which I end up turning a lot of my bowls, and in most species I don't have many problems with checking. The wood still cuts easily, but I don't get sprayed with sap as the wood spins on the lathe.

I am surprised however that they did this with elm, a species that I find rots very easily, and that the bark is allowed to fall off, which I find leads to checks starting at the surface.

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Categories: history, bowl turning

Thursday, November 23, 2006

B.A.D. blogging

It's official. I'm a B.A.D. blogger.

Yesterday I had a wonderful conversation with Liz Strauss from Successful Blog. We talked about my blogs, this one, The ToolRest, which is written for woodturners, and The Chipshop which is for my customers. I mentioned to Liz how hard it is to get comments and trackback from visitors to my blogs, and pointed out some posts she has written in the past. The first suggestion is to leave a thought open as a relationship builder. Liz is a teacher and text book writer and I have a background in training. Liz suggests that these occupations encourage us to normally over-explain things, thereby not leaving much scope for open thoughts. The second post is 10 Reasons Readers Don’t Leave Comments.

It's going to take me a while to absorb all this, but in the meantime you can can do me a favour and take a moment to tell me why you haven't left a comment here before. It really would be a great favour and might help me become a B.E.T.T.E.R blogger. Have you got some advice for a blogger who's ready to listen? A view from that side of the screen would be valuable and appreciated. You can't hurt my feelings - I'm a better woodturner than I am a blogger.

DiscussingThe Art of Woodturning

There are many great online forums where woodturning tools and techniques are discussed, and where our latest creations can be displayed. But surprisingly enough there are no forum categories encouraging the discussion of woodturning as an artform. This is a real shame, and is perhaps holding back many people from developing their woodturning beyond being just a craft skill. It certainly is a problem for me.

At my request, the Wood Turning Center have kindly added a category The Art of Woodturning to their forum. Do check it out. I have started one thread, asking "Should woodturners extend their artistic vocabulary"? Please leave your thoughts on this thread, and if you have anything else to discuss please start a new thread. It would also be nice to hear your thoughts and ideas for developing this forum. Don't be shy. You don't need to be an art expert - I'm certainly not, but I do want to learn more and develop my thinking on the subject.

One thing I hope is that artists from other disciplines will drop by the forum and add to the discussion. I think that woodturning can only benefit from input from other viewpoints and it might address some of the concerns that I blogged about in Inspiration for woodturners.

See you soon on The Art of Woodturning.

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Categories: art, craft, learning, wood turning center

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pens for Canadian Peacekeepers

CBC Radio featured an interview with Jim Shaver who spearheads Pens for Canadian Peacekeepers. It's good that woodturning, and this project in particular, is getting some coverage from the mainstream media.

With help from some thirty ofr so supporters, Jim has sent out 232 pens to Canadian peacekeepers all around the world including Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Sudan and Egypt. Some of the wood which has been used for this project was some walnut that was left over from a gunstock factory during the Second World War, a fitting use for this wood with a history.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

What would you like to see on video?

Last month I pointed out some woodturning videos on YouTube. Chris Anderson, the producer of the videos featuring J.T.Dunphy, has written to me asking for your help in planning more woodturning videos. Here is what he says:
"I'm in talks with JT about making a follow-up--especially for YouTube, so short segments are likely and I'm looking for suggestions. If your readers would like to help in the development of this, I think we could accomodate their interests. I'm hoping that YouTube (and other sites like it) can become gathering spots for artists and those merely curious about the arts!"
This is a great opportunity to have your say about the type of video content you want to see. Maybe you have a particular interest that hasn't been covered on video before? Or maybe you have some insight into what makes a truly great video? Or just something you really think should be on YouTube. Please leave a comment below and I will see that Chris receives it. If you prefer to talk with Chris directly, you can find his contact details on his website,

"The aim of ARTinRES is to give viewers a "behind the scenes" look at working artists in order to de-mystify the creative process, heighten appreciation for the artistic community's contribution to our lives, and to reveal the commitment artists make to their work. Chris has taught English for the past fifteen years and is currently an instructor at Columbus State Community College, Ohio. The AiR series answers his life-long dream to make documentary films."

Skew Chisel: The Darkside & The Sweet Side with Alan LacerSkew Chisel: The Darkside & The Sweet Side with Alan Lacer
Learn to Handle the Most Challenging Tool in All of Woodturning... Video available on VHS and DVD.

Skew Chisel: The Darkside & The Sweet Side with Alan Lacer

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categories: video

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A splash of color

Have you ever considered adding a splash of color to your work?

Woodturner Michael Allison does just that. He uses his experience gained in the guitar refinishing industry to really make his vessels stand out. He describes briefly his methods and materials on his website, but Fine Woodworking has posted a four minute video in which Michael talks in more depth about the techniques behind his graduated dye finish.

Michael uses Trans Tint wood dyes, applied with an air brush. The graduated color is built up over many applications. The manufacturer's technical data sheet describes the dye:
"TransTint Dyes are a single component concentrated metallized acid dyestuff dissolved in a glycol ether carrier. The product is designed to be let down with a polar or mildly polar solvent such as water or alcohol and used as a dye stain on bare wood for interior surfaces."
The data sheet goes on to describe how the dye can be used. This is a must-read for anyone planning to use this product. It covers safety issues as well as hints for dealing with application problems.

TransTint® DyesTransTint® Dyes
Concentrated dye solution makes it easy to apply beautiful color to your project.

Available in 12 colors. 2 oz. bottle...
TransTint® Dyes

Michael primarily uses water based lacquer to build up a finish when the dyeing is complete to make the color pop out. High gloss finishes like this require careful turning since any ripples in the surface will be very obvious, just like a small dent in a polished car.

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Categories: finishing is a brand new online service that aims to match up advertisers with bloggers who will write a review for them. This blog post is one such paid review of

When advertisers go to the site they can find relevant blogs either by a search box or through a list of categories which are presented as a tag cloud. A list of blogs is then presented, along with a brief description of each blog, its star rating, and the cost of a review. Clicking on any blog shows more details such as rankings from Alexa and Technorati, an estimate of the number of RSS subscribers, and recent blog post headings. The cost of a review is related to the blog's star rating. A one star blog costs $40, and a four star blog $250. I couldn't find any 5 star blogs.

Ordering a review is as simple as adding to a shopping cart. At checkout time you get to provide a few details about your website and get to choose from having a review written about either a product, a service, site design or page content. Once the checkout process is complete, an offer is sent to the selected reviewers. Once they choose to accept the offer, they have 48 hours to publish their review.

Bloggers who want to sign up as a reviewer simply have to enter details of their blog. In fact, each blogger can have up to six blogs on the system. Not all blogs are accepted; a blog "must meet a minimum number of citations, subscribers, and traffic". This decision is made automatically and you know straight away whether you have been accepted.

Users have an account page which shows the reviews they have bought and written, and which gives access to all the functions of the site. For the most part, using the site is quite straightforward. I have used to register The Toolrest as a review site on the topics of art, craft, lathes, tools, woodturning, woodworking, and I have also purchased a review from Wedaholic which was written well and very promptly.

I have few complaints about and they are minor ones which will hopefully be resolved as the site matures. First point is that the page titles are all the same. This makes it difficult to move around if you have the site open in multiple tabs, and will cause problems finding bookmarked pages. Second point, and this is perhaps a bigger issue, and that is the categories they list blogs under. I had to put The Tool Rest under House and Home which seemed to be the closest fit. While I wasn't expecting to see a Woodturning category, Arts & Crafts, Recreation, or Hobbies, would seem to be big gaps in the choices they provide. seems set to change the face of blogging, creating another means for bloggers to monetise their efforts and a new way for advertisers to promote their products. Expect to see a lot more sponsored reviews soon. If you write a woodworking blog, or have woodworking products for sale, do consider working with I'll be happy to write your first review.

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Categories: blogs

Friday, November 10, 2006

Extreme sharpening

If your think woodturners get worked up over sharpening their tools, you need to check out this report in Popular Woodworking about Harrelson Stanley's Planing Contest and Sharpening Tour.

Apparently, planing contests are taken really seriously in Japan, attracting hundreds of contestants and thousands of spectators. The shavings they make are typically 1-3/4" wide, 7' long and as thin as 3 micrometres. That's scary, and I wonder what the finished surface feels like.

It all makes me wonder if a 'longest shaving' competition would be a good event for a turning club. Or maybe the thinest, heaviest, widest? There are of course some challenges, such as collecting the shaving without it breaking as it leaves the lathe at speed. But it might make for an evening of fun.

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Categories: clubs, sharpening, woodworking

River of Destiny - The Art of Binh Pho

River of Destiny opens at Long Beach Museum of Art on December 8, 2006 and runs until March 4, 2007. This ehibition features over 40 works created during the past 15 years by contemporary sculptor Binh Pho, whose works combine wood turning with piercing, texturing, airbrushing and gilding.

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Categories: art, exhibitions, sculpture, woodturners

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bowl blank templates

One of the simplest and most useful accessories I have made is this set of templates.

They are made from large pieces of corrugated cardboard, and are simple circles of varying diameters. They really make an easy job of marking out bowl diameters on boards and log halves. I have the diameters marked clearly on the edges, so it is really easy to find the right size.

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Categories: woodturning, bowl turning, logs, tools

Turning BowlsTurning Bowls
Completely revised and updated, this classic is the definitive book on turning. With new techniques and up-to-date information on tools, this book is a great resource for every turner...

Turning Bowls